Responses to anti-Islamic Polemics

Religion vs Paedophilia [Part 1]

[Below is the refutation of a YT persona by the name of “Klingschor”, who has gotten a lot of popularity among the anti-Islam community. He, like many others, claim that the Prophet Muhammad (saws) was a pedophile or child molester given his marriage with young Aisha (ra). I have detailed all his errors in full as well as provided valid objections to his fallacious arguments. Enjoy.]

The Magic #9

A common accusation brought against Prophet Muhammad (saws) in our contemporary age is that he had committed an immoral act of sexual and emotional violence against children and has sanctioned the same sort of violence for all those that attempt to follow his teachings. By marrying a young girl of 9 years of age, he has been accused, by the unbelieving community, of being a pedophile or a child molester. Klingschor [1] is one of them, though he chooses the latter of the two accusations. Though it is easy for him and others to conjure up the magic number 9 as an attempt to refute Islam on moral grounds, as we shall see however, this numerical rabbit trick is simply an illusion based on fundamental misunderstandings. It is in my view that he and others with similar mentalities, have not fully comprehended the nature of historical man, both socially and biologically. Further — and I believe this to be the most important and influential flaw of their thinking — they have misunderstood the nature of morality and Islamic Law.

 

My first objection will revolve around how Klingschor and others view the historical man and our evolutionary pattern throughout time. In Klingschor’s initial analysis of this issue, he gives some contemporary definitions of puberty and historical evidences pertaining to the average time at which most females reached puberty in antiquity [2].

Note that he also quotes sources pertaining to the legal standards of certain societies in regards to when adulthood was reached. The implication he draws from these sources is that puberty automatically coincided with antiquities perception of adulthood (though most likely opposed to his own), and since Aisha (ra) appeared to be below this age limit prescribed by said societies, this means she was in fact an immature person incapable of sexual intercourse, understanding marriage, and social responsibility. Therefore, according to his understanding, she was victimized by the Prophet Muhammad (saws).

Here, Klingschor effectively commits the fallacy of suppressed evidence by not mentioning some important factors that run contrary to his conclusions. The first is that he fails to mention contemporary research in the field of child-studies of the past, which have noted the problem of correlating biological age with social fitness:

The problem of using biological age to determine the social age of a child is becoming more widely acknowledged in the literature (Baxter 2005a, p. 98; Lewis 2007). [3]

While the claim…that the biological basis of childhood cannot be contested, seems reasonable, one should be aware of its limitations. [4]

The reason for correlating biological age with social age or functioning seems to have come from the invalid biases of former researchers who had imposed their contemporary experiences of children upon past societies:

Much of the tension in the investigation of age in the past arises from the assumption that we can link “biological” to“social” age. Sofaer (2006, p. 127) states “(t)he desire to turn biological categories into social ones by creating implicit and direct links between the two, causes problems by trying to turn a process (ageing) … into a class (age).” She states that distinctions between the categories, particularly “child” cf.“adult”, are the product of the current limitations of osteological methods for age estimation in adults, and that using biological developmental standards for ageing results in the construction of artificial divisions of social and mental development between these categories (Sofaer 2006, pp. 126–127). [5]

And while biological age is an important factor in determining childhood in the past — something we will be addressing later briefly in the case of Aisha — the evolutionary and historical realities of our species informs us of a far more nuanced play of events than what the “pedophile/child molester”screechers of today fail to mention. Regarding the cognitive development of children:

Human beings are the most cognitively flexible species on the planet and infants and young children are sensitive to early environmental conditions and can alter their path of development, based on current conditions, in anticipation of future conditions. Along these lines, Boyce and Ellis (2005) proposed the concept of conditional adaptations:

“[E]volved mechanisms that detect and respond to specific features of childhood environments – features that have proven reliable over our evolutionary time in in predicting the nature of the social and physical world into which children will mature – and entertain developmental pathways that reliably match those featured during a species’ natural selective history (p. 290)”

Children living in different environments…develop different cognitive or behaviorial strategies in anticipation of the environment they will likely inhabit as adults.[6]

Conditional adaptations underpin development of contingent survival and reproductive strategies and thus enable individuals to function competently in a variety of environments. For example, according to life history (LH) theory, children’s brains and bodies tend to respond to dangerous or unpredictable environments by growing up fast and living for the here and now (e.g., Belsky et al., 1991; Chisholm, 1999; Ellis et al., 2009; Nettle, 2010; Quinlan, 2007). Viewed from within this framework, the adolescent who responds to a dangerous environment by developing insecure attachments, adopting an opportunistic interpersonal orientation, engaging in a range of externalizing behaviors, and sustaining an early sexual debut is no less functional than the adolescent who responds to a well-resourced and supportive social environment by developing the opposing characteristics and orientations (see Bel- sky et al., 1991; Ellis et al., 2011). [7]

The conditions for these adaptations vary, but generally are well established for past societies:

That the environment can influence growth and developmental trajectories during pre-adult life history stages is well established, and later life outcomes have been much sought after. Yet, the mechanistic events that influence the transition from one life history stage to the next, growth and puberty are incompletely understood….In general terms, high-mortality regimes favour relatively early reproduction, whereas low-mortality regimes favour delaying the onset longer [8,9]. As usual with an evolutionary problem, the reasons for this can be expressed in terms of costs and benefits. On the benefit side, females delaying reproductive onset may be able to produce higher quality offspring in the end, because of the extended period of pre-reproductive somatic investment and resource accumulation they can make. On the cost side, every time unit of delay increases the probability that the individual will die or become incapacitated before she is able to complete her reproductive career. Selection favours a point where the trade-off between these costs and benefits is optimized. [8]

The bottom line is that people simply did not live as long or as healthy in the past. Many women died right after childbirth, and the need to have many children, who would later be left without parents, would have triggered  youth in the past to mature faster so that society could still function. Death was something of a greater reality for children, and as such they had to adapt accordingly. The fact that such a common sense understanding needs to be scientifically proven, is an enigma.

Even one of the references that Klingschor attempts to quote, makes note of the fact that biological age did not necessarily correlate with social fitness:

No matter what period we are examining, childhood is more than a biological age, but a series of social and cultural events and experiences that make up a child’s life… The time at which these transitions take place varies from one culture to another, and has a bearing on the level of interaction children have with their environment, their exposure to disease and trauma, and their contribution to the economic status of their family and society. The Western view of childhood, where children do not commit violence and are asexual, has been challenged by studies of children that show them learning to use weapons or being depicted in sexual poses (Derevenski, 2000; Meskell, 2000). What is clear is that we cannot simply transpose our view of childhood directly onto the past. [9]

It is rather odd for Klingschor to have missed this after having apparently read the source material and contemporary studies on the subject matter. Perhaps he’s not as objective as he makes himself out to be. He also does not make any reference to the conditions of the Arab world of this time, assuming that other isolated societies’ standards somehow apply, despite the various differences in environment, technology, economics, etc. Note that while the societies he does mention did have certain standards associated with biological age, this does not mean they were completely rigid in this respect. A girl reaching or not reaching menarche did not always determine her social status or preparedness in society – something that will be discussed more in part III regarding Islamic Law.

To his credit, he does attempt to prove that Aisha was socially immature at the time of her marriage as well, quoting various hadith[10].

The first two points are a matter of linguistic play by Klingschor, where he attempts to take the most literal interpretation of the texts while ignoring salient cultural nuances and other hadith that directly contradict his position. Where Aisha has called herself a ‘young girl’, she has elsewhere stated that at the age of 9 – girls become women:

Narrated Aisha: When the girl reaches nine years of age, she is a woman. [11]

So if we are supposed to take her words as authoritative regarding her level of maturity, then we should not ignore this hadith. As it appears, however, Klingschor operates on double standards. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for people of various ages to consider themselves ‘young’ compared to an older group. For instance, just because a 25 year old in the contemporary period considers him or herself ‘young’, this does not automatically mean that they simultaneously consider themselves unable to function in society –whether we are talking about marriage or anything else. In fact, that very same person may consider themselves an adult in a different context. For them to make both claims, is not a contradiction when we consider the various contexts in which they describe themselves in.

The second point, regarding that Aisha was considered immature by her maid, can likewise be refuted. Note that this hadith takes place many years after the initial consummation of Aisha’s marriage at the age of 9, making her older. The fact that young Aisha is considered immature here by her maid, is not in context of her entire level of maturity within said society, but in response to certain chores she is sometimes unable to complete. It is not uncommon in any society, whether contemporary or in the past, for older adults to call younger people immature. No matter what age group you may be a part of, an older age group may call you immature based on how they believe you should act.

The fact that Klingschor and others like to read these hadith in such a narrow fashion, while not having the same consistency in their own wordplay, is evidence of their lack of integrity, or in the very least, their lack of common sense.

The third point is refuted by first acknowledging that, like former research of the bioarcheaology of children, many people tend to assume that their contemporary experience of children can be applied to those of the past. It is apparent that Klingschor and many others with similar mentalities, are responsible for having committed this same fallacy of reasoning.

In his point regarding Aisha having taken her dolls with her upon moving in with the Prophet (saws), this is not unusual in the slightest, as these were probably the only things that Aisha owned and would have most likely kept to pass down to her own children later on:

Highly valued toys and childhood objects can be curated well into adulthood and passed on to subsequent generations of children; therefore, artefacts found in the archaeological record may not adequately reflect the full range of material culture used and cherished by the users. [12]

Regarding his point concerning the following hadith:

Narrated ‘Aisha: I used to play with the dolls in the presence of the Prophet, and my girl friends also used to play with me. When Allah’s Apostle used to enter (my dwelling place) they used to hide themselves, but the Prophet would call them to join and play with me. (The playing with the dolls and similar images is forbidden, but it was allowed for ‘Aisha at that time, as she was a little girl, not yet reached the age of puberty.) (Fath-al-Bari page 143, Vol.13) [13]

First, Klingschor doesn’t bother to actually tell us when this event took place and also mistakenly assumes that the last statement in parentheses is actually part of the hadith when in fact it is part of a commentary of Sahih al-Bukhari titled “Fath-al-Bari”, written 1428 C.E./842 A.H. by the famous Shafi’i qadi, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani. This is important to note because while this commentary is one of the most famous in Islam, Ibn Hajar’s explanations were based on a particular methodology that was not completely in touch with historical accuracy. Before getting into detail about that, let’s take a look at further commentary from the Fath al-Bari that explains the reason for this interpretation:

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin:

When the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) arrived after the expedition to Tabuk or Khaybar (the narrator is doubtful), the draught raised an end of a curtain which was hung in front of her store-room, revealing some dolls which belonged to her.

He asked: What is this? She replied: My dolls. Among them he saw a horse with wings made of rags, and asked: What is this I see among them? She replied: A horse. He asked: What is this that it has on it? She replied: Two wings. He asked: A horse with two wings? She replied: Have you not heard that Solomon had horses with wings? She said: Thereupon the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) laughed so heartily that I could see his molar teeth. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 41, #4914)

Al-Haafiz goes on to say:[43: Fath al-Baari 10/400, Baab (91), related to Hadith no.5954, 5955.]

Abu Daawood and An-Nasaa’ee have narrated with another chain (wajh aakhar) from ‘Aa’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) that she said:” The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) returned from the battle of Tabook or Khaibar…”.

Here he mentioned the Hadith about his (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) tearing down the curtain which she (may Allah be pleased with her) attached to her door. She (may Allah be pleased with her) said:” Then the side of the curtain which was over the dolls of ‘Aa’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) was uncovered. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: What is this, O ‘Aa’isha? She said: My dolls. She then said: then he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saw amongst them a winged horse which was tied up. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: What is this? I said: A horse. He said: A horse with two wings? I said: Didn’t you hear that Sulaiman (Solomon – peace be upon him) had horses with wings? Then he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) laughed”.

Al-Khattaabi said: From this Hadith it is understood that playing with dolls (al-banaat) is not like the amusement from other images (suwar) concerning which the threat (wa’eed) of punishment is mentioned. The only reason why permission in this was given to ‘Aa’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) is because she had not, at that time, reached the age of puberty.

[al-Haafiz says:] I say: To say with certainty, [that she was not yet at the age of puberty] is questionable, though it might possibly be so. This, because ‘Aa’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) was a fourteen year old girl at the time of the Battle of Khaibar – either exactly fourteen years old, or having just passed her fourteenth year [and entering into the fifteenth year], or approaching it (the fourteenth year). As for her age at the time of the Battle of Tabook – she had by then definitely reached the age of puberty. Therefore, the strongest view is that of those who said: “It was in Khaibar” [i.e. when she was not yet at the age of puberty], and made reconciliation (jam’) [between the apparent contradictory rulings, of permissibility of dolls, in particular, and the prohibition of images, in general] with what al-Khattaabi said (above).[14]

Note the reason for the interpretation here. The purpose was to make reconciliation between two apparently contradictory rulings within the contemporary understanding of fiqh during Ibn Hajar’s lifetime. The strongest view was not based on historical accuracy or the realities of Aisha’s actual physical/mental maturity, but whether dolls were allowed to be played with at a certain age. Even in the commentary itself, Ibn Hajar notes that Aisha, at the time of her having played with these dolls, was around the age of 14. This, accordingly, would coincide with Klngschor’s necessary biological criteria for her not to have been a child — in the very least she would have been physically and mentally capable at this point, despite not having reached menarche, to have a marital relationship. The fact that Klingschor did not bother to mention that this portion of the hadith was in fact a commentary from Ibn Hajar, and the reasons behind his interpretation, along with the fact that Aisha was more than old enough at this time to have met his criteria, shows a further lack of integrity on his part.

If anyone is still interested in whether Aisha had reached minimal physical maturation prior to her consummation, this can be easily validated by looking at her own testimony. Recorded in a hadith, Aisha mentions that she had reached puberty prior to having lived with the Prophet Muhammad (saws) — or when she would have consummated the marriage:

Narrated Aisha: I had seen my parents following Islam since I attained the age of puberty. Not a day passed but the Prophet visited us, both in the mornings and evenings. [15]

Despite the fact that many societies set standards of adult responsibility based on biological concerns — such as menarche or certain set ages — these standards were flexible and also depended on various other conditions as well. Later in this presentation, we will be discussing the flexibility of Islamic Law in regards to these conditions.

To summarize, to make similar the contemporary realities of child and adult development with that of 1400 years ago, when neither reflect similar social, economic, technological or resource conditions, which would have also influenced the level of biological and cognitive development of said populations, is not only unfair, but completely and utterly fallacious. As such, we can say with certainty that Klingschor and others are simply morally incorrect. The magic number 9 objection is just that — magic.

A question that is often given to me and other Muslims is if we would marry our young, immature daughters off in the contemporary age: The answer isnobecause we are following the example of our Prophet (saws) as well as the dictates of Islamic Law and their ability to incorporate various changing conditions throughout time. The real question that should be asked, towards our detractors  is if they would marry off their young daughters in early antiquity, knowing full well the moral consequences of not doing so, having now understood the historical and biological concerns related to that time period and its various geographical and cultural differences prior to the contemporary phenomenon of globalization.

In Part II we will address the possible moral philosophical foundations behind this misunderstanding as well as address the concern of how Divine sanctions can be universal if human conditions and biology change throughout time.

In Part III we will discuss the true nature of Islamic Law and how it is able to adequately incorporate the changing conditions of mankind into its moral framework.

____________________________

FOOTNOTES

____________________________

http://www.youtube.com/user/Klingschor

http://www.youtube.com/user/Lorientalist

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wlEhW_b87E

3 Siân Halcrow, and Nancy Tayles, “The Bioarchaeological Investigation of Childhood and Social Age: Problems and Prospects,” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 15, no. 2 (2008): 203,

4 Liv Dommasnes, and Melanie Wrigglesworth, “Introduction,” Children, Identity and the Past, (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008), xiii.

5 Siân Halcrow, and Nancy Tayles, “The Bioarchaeological Investigation of Childhood and Social Age: Problems and Prospects,” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 15, no. 2 (2008): 203,

6 David Bjorklund, and Anthony Pellegrini, “Evolutionary Perspectives on Social Development,” The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Social Development, ed. Peter Smith and Craig Hart (West Susex: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2011), 69-70.

7 Bruce Ellis, Thomas Dishion, Marco Guidice, Aurelio Figueredo, Peter Gray, Vladas Griskevicius, Patricia Hawley, and David Wilson, “The Evolutionary Basis of Risky Adolescent Behavior: Implications for Science, Policy, and Practice,” Developmental Psychology, 48, no. 3 (2012): 601,

8 Daniel Nettle, “Flexibility in reproductive timing in human females: integrating ultimate and proximate explanations,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Biological Sciences, 366, no. 1563 (2011): 357-58,

9 Mary Lewis, The Bioarchaeology of Children: Perspectives from Biological and Forensic Anthropology, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 4.

10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JGmP8ZZzoU

11 Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Kitab: al-Nikah #1027

12 Laurie Wilkie, “Not merely child’s play:Creating a historical archaeology of children and childhood,”Children and Material Culture, ed. Joanna Sofaer Derevenski (New York: Routledge, 2000), 102.

13 Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, #151

14 Fath-al-Bari page 143, Vol.13

15 Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 8, #465

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